The Campfire

17 posts categorized "Hiking"

August 01, 2011

Family Outings for the Last Days of Summer

By Heidi Drake

Just flipped your calendar over to the next month and freaked out a little that it’s August already? Dad-and-child-hiking Me too. But if part of that panic is thinking it’s too late to pack a few more quick family trips and outings into your summer schedule, relax. You’ve still got time to take the kids outside for some shenanigans before they have to hit the books again, and it doesn't have to involve a lot of money or advance planning.

•    Hike! No matter where you live, you can put on your sneakers or hiking boots and take a walk outdoors. Don’t forget water and snacks, and lots of sunscreen! What we love about hiking is you can do it pretty much anywhere, for any length of time… ‘sup to you!
•    Camp! Pack up the kids’ sleeping bags and some roasting sticks and head up to your favorite lake or wooded area. The majority of campgrounds in the U.S. only take reservations for about 50% of their sites, so the rest are there for the picking. Perfect for the last-minute "planner!"
•    Bike! Choose a mellow, paved bike route or some kid-friendly single track and get rolling with your crew. Oufit your kids with Camelbak hydration packs for safer riding and room for snacks too.

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June 08, 2011

Bikin' and 'Shroom Huntin' - It's On!

By Heidi Drake

It all started with vanilla malts. Daddy made 'em at 7:30 on a Sunday evening when bedtime for our school-bound girls is 8:00 pm. When six-year-old Maya started bouncing off the walls and talking so fast we couldn't understand her, I ordered Dad to get out the kids' mountain bikes and take 'em out to burn it off before snooze time. 

Girls with morel mushroomNot long after they set off to cruise our two-acre spread, Maya ran in yelling, "Mom! We found a Morel mushroom! I need Daddy’s pocket knife!" I gave it to her (with a host of "be careful, it's sharp!" warnings) and it was only a couple of minutes until they asked for a bag 'cause they'd found a bunch more. They gathered 67 before I made them come in for bed.

When the weather turns to a mix of warm days and rain, the Morels pop their spongy little heads out of the ground and it's harvest time. There are a bunch of helpful mushroom hunting websites to consult for complete information before you go, but here are a few tips to get you pumped for the hunt:

  • Make sure you're legal. Before you head out to search for Morels, visit your local forest service office and get a permit. It's free, and it'll keep you out of trouble! Even on private land, permits are needed for large quantities, but if you happen to stumble upon a few and plan to use them right away for dinner, it's okay to harvest them without a permit. Do talk to a ranger to clarify the rules in your area.

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June 06, 2011

The Full Meal Deal: Backpacking with Kids

By Meredith Russell

As we've previously discussed, camping with kids can suck. So imagine how crummy a backpacking trip can be!  Done simply, however, backpacking with your kids can create some of the best family memories. 

Start Small. Consider not only a short hike, but also a short drive. A shorter distance to the site helps keep the kids' enthusiasm up, and a short trip home limits confined periods of whining!

Start simple. An easy way to limit the complexity of a first trip is to camp at the trailhead. You can have the fun of camping without having to trudge your tent and sleeping bags uphill the next day. You can fit in an overnight, a full day of hiking, fishing, etc., and then head back to the car in the evening for the trip home.

Plan destination hikes. Once the kids are up for it, there's nothing cooler than hiking to a waterfall, lake, or some final spot that takes your breath away and makes everyone forget about their blister or sore shoulders! Set it up so you camp at your "destination," which will make your kids feel that the hike, no matter how tricky or "exhausting," was worth it!

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May 25, 2011

On the Trail… Keep the Kids Moving!

By Meredith Russell

You've gotten the gear, chosen your hike, and set the date—now you need to get your child from the start of the hike to the end of the hike with minimal meltdowns!

 Here are a few tricks I’ve collected along the trail:

Kid with cameraIt's all about the snacks.  Frequent snacking and hydration stops along the way are crucial for keeping kids' energy up. Food can also be a great motivator. As my friend says, "like the carrot in front of the proverbial donkey," having some treats up your sleeve or down your backpack can save the day. She likes to use Skittles—they're small, don't melt, and can be doled out one at a time (e.g. "When we get to that big rock way in the distance we'll have a Skittle break!")

Distraction—What? Where?  Distraction is one of my all-time favorite parenting strategies. Any time I say "Look, a hay truck!" my kids know I'm changing the subject.   If your kids get tired or frustrated on the trail, distract them with any combo of the following:

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May 20, 2011

How to Poop in the Woods

By Heidi Drake

You're out exploring nature's wonders when suddenly it comes a callin'—one of the kids announces, "I have to poop!" And of course it usually happens when there's no outhouse or bathroom nearby.

Hey, it happens. Ever get caught unprepared, or not sure exactly what the proper etiquette is for going #2 al fresco? We're here to clear the air.

  • Pack supplies. No matter where you are, you're gonna need something to wipe with and possibly something to carry out with (more on your options below). You're already sporting a backpack full of snacks and water bottles so no big deal to add a couple more things like TP and plastic bags, right?

  • Little boy hiking in the woods
  • Go off trail. Scope out the situation and make sure you and your offspring don't do your business where others are gonna easily stumble into your makeshift bathroom. But, it's also important to avoid trampling foliage as much as possible.
  •  Method #1: Pack it out. If you're truly a Leave No Trace kind of person, arm yourself with TP and plastic bags you can tie in knots (or Ziploc bags) and dispose of when you get back. Think of what you do for your dog and apply it to yourself. Enclose them in a paper bag if you don't want to look at your stuff later!

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May 18, 2011

Family Hiking: Get Ready, Get Set…Go!

By Meredith Russell

Hiking is a wonderful family activity for many reasons, not the least of which is that a good hike can keep everyone "unplugged," at least for a little while.

Preparation is always a great way to increase family fun and minimize meltdowns.

Family hiking fun Gather the Gear.  There's a ton of great gear out there for adults and children to make hiking easy and fun.  But remember: whatever gear you pack for the kids, there's a high likelihood you'll be carrying it by the end of the hike! Your child is likely to be psyched to have his own child-sized backpack, but you never know how long the enthusiasm will last. So, you may want to be sure that his backpack fits inside yours, or that you can carry both backpacks.  I'm just saying….

Choose the Hike.  There are some awesome websites that provide current information on hikes appropriate for young children. Be sure to get info on the elevation gain as well as the length, and check whether the hike is good in all seasons. Use your own judgment based on your family. When we first started hiking with our kids, we averaged one mile per hour when we factored in snacks and stops!

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May 06, 2011

Mom's Day "Getaways" for Ladies who Play

By Heidi Drake

What's your Mother's Day style? Spend a day basking in the attention of your noisy crew or slip out to the spa for some peace and quiet? Flowers and cards or keepin' it casual?

No matter how you prefer to enjoy your special day—do it your way! Try something new or continue a tradition. Some of our favorites?
Woman hiking

  • Catch up on some zzzz’s… in the woods. May means Mother’s Day and spring! Which means the camping bug bites a lot of us and we can’t wait to pack up the tribe and snuggle in a cozy sleeping bag  somewhere secluded.
  • Take a hike. Make it a family affair, or go off on your own for a while to recharge. Hiking’s a wonderful way to exercise without feeling like you are, and you pick the pace and the place!
  • Let your cares float away. Pack up the PFDs and waterproof sunscreen and paddle the week's worries into oblivion in a canoe, raft, or kayak. It's tough to stay stressed on a float (unless you have a water phobia, but if that's the case you've probably stopped reading this one already).
  • Find a festival. Make Daddy pack your pre-walker in your favorite child carrier and hit an outdoor concert or Saturday Market. Even Play Outdoors families don't have to go hardcore all the time!
  • Run away. Seriously, it's your day, so if you choose to tell the fam "buh-bye!" and take off for some alone time, that's your prerogative! Just let 'em spoil you some when you get back.

Happy Day, Play Outdoors Moms.

May 02, 2011

Little Gear for Little Hands: Part 4

Hello, Campfire Readers! Welcome to the "Little Gear for Little Hands" series. I'll be telling you all about some great gear that is perfect for the hands of your little ones. has tons of great "little gear" options but I'll be picking out a few that are the favorites in our house and giving you some ideas of how to use them in your backyard, on the trail or at the campsite. If you like what you read, please leave a comment to let us know! And, visit my blog, GreeningSamandAvery.

Binoculars—Just Like Mom and Dad

By Abbie Enlund

For almost a year we've carted our kid-sized binoculars with us on hikes, walks, and to neighborhood parks. My husband and I had binoculars, so Sam wanted them too.  She rarely ever used them on her own, and when she did she would hold them backwards and just stare at the ground. But she always wanted them when we had ours. It was frustrating to have to bring along a piece of gear that she didn’t know how to use and aggravating that she wouldn't listen when we tried to show her how to use them the right way!

Child with binocularsThen, all of a sudden one day, Sam held them up the right way. She looked up into a tree and said "Mom, look at that bird!" I looked at the bird with my binoculars and we talked about what she was seeing. Then, we talked about how she was using her own binoculars! We stood there for quite a few minutes, trying to see what else we could spot. I was floored and so excited that she had finally figured it out. I don't know how or why it suddenly made sense, but it did.

All those family hikes and trips to the park toting the kid binoculars that didn't get used suddenly didn't seem like such a hardship. This was a milestone. Sam had watched us, experimented, and finally learned to use a piece of outdoor gear—on her own! I could not have been a prouder mama.

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April 29, 2011

Raising Happy Campers—It’s All About the Gear

Girl with backpack hikingBy Heidi Drake

Yeah, yeah, yeah… we know most of us grew up camping without kid-sized alpine backpacks, 50+ UPF sunscreen, and tents rated for sub-zero temperatures.

But then again, we also didn't grow up with cell phones and controller-free video games. Times have changed, and you bet your booty we'd have appreciated super-technical family camping gear  if it had been available to us—don't lie just to sound tough.

Thankfully, your kids don't have to suffer! Instill a love of camping and hiking early with "Whoo-Hoo!"-worthy gear like:

  • Travel beds and sun shades. A cranky baby is a fun killer on a camping trip, and what makes little ones fussy? Lack of sleep! Give 'em a safe, familiar place to chill wherever you are, and everyone will have a better time.

  • Ergonomic child carriers and backpacks. Not only is it easier to pack pre-walkers (or tired toddlers) with adjustable kid carriers, your older offspring can pack their own gear in a multifunctional youth backpack. Encourage self-sufficiency!

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April 15, 2011

Bad Shoe Victim? Not Your Kid!

The right shoes for your youngster’s outdoor shenanigans

By Heidi Drake

You've seen 'em. The middle schoolers shlepping along in their flip-flops in the snow, the 3rd graders hiking in skate sneakers with smooth tread… getting our kids to wear the right shoes at the right time can be tough!

Girl putting on activity appropriate shoesWhen it comes to outdoor activities, though, pragmatism's got to outweigh fashion quirks. That doesn't mean the two are mutually exclusive—it is possible for your youngster to be stylish and safe. Just choose the correct shoes for what they're up to.

  • Hiking. No open-toed footwear allowed! Durable and breathable hiking boots or sneaker/hiker hybrids with chunky tread are the ticket. Even flat terrain gets slippery in smooth-tread shoes.
  • Swimming and Beach Bumming. Alright, alright, you can wear your favorite flip-flops. There's nothing like bare toes in the sand, so shoes that slide on and off easily let your kid experience the beach the way it should be. Need extra protection for surfing or more rocky coastlines? A pair of slip-on water shoes will treat 'em right.
  •  Biking. Again, we're gonna nix the sandals (stubbed toes suck), but sneakers or low-top hiking shoes are A-OK! Super chunky tread isn't as important, but make sure they work well with your child's pedals to minimize slippage.
  • Playground Frolicking. Depending on the surface at the park or playground, closed-toed sandals, hikers, or sneakers are best. Avoid sandals in thick wood chips, and make sure the soles are thick enough to protect your kid’s feet from sharp objects and sticks.

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